The Haze


I’m running.

Every step is more excruciating than the last. My body is on fire with pain, but the air around me couldn’t be colder. The beam of light from the flashlight I’m holding is bouncing around erratically as I run, and just like always, I want to stop. I hate running. I’ve never been good at it and I never plan to be. But I can’t stop, because if I do, they’ll get me.

I don’t know what they look like, but I think they’re in cars. I don’t know how many of them are after me, but their headlights flash around the corner from time to time, just before I have to take another sharp turn and dart back into the trees or around the nearest wall. The scenery doesn’t make any sense, but it’s all hidden in a watery blue fog.

Then, suddenly, I get a brilliant idea.

I turn the flashlight off and leap up into the nearest grove of trees. Not very high, but enough that their wider branches can hide me if no one’s looking. I brace my arms and legs against the trunks and close my eyes, taking deep, lung-shattering breaths every second and trying to stay conscious. Swirls of black crawl across my vision as all the blood rushes back to my head. I hear the rumble of the engines rise and fall, and before long, everything is plunged back into darkness. I shiver. All the heat my body generated from running is gone now, swept away by the wind that robs me of my regular breathing.

Suddenly, my hands feel weird.

I hold one up to my face to see it. The moon moves out from behind some clouds just long enough for me to see what’s happening. Needles are popping out all over my skin. They look like thumbtacks, each the same length and sharp. I can almost see the colorful plastic bases hiding beneath my skin, but the needles start to creep. They circle around my fingers and dart over the tips. They spread over the back of my hand and start to crawl up my arm. When I instinctively reach to stop them, I accidentally stab myself a thousand times over, and before I can help it, I scream.

The holes are quickly filled in as needles start to appear through them and block the flow of the liquid, like some sort of demented clot. I want to close my eyes so I don’t have to look at it anymore, but I notice that the needles are there too, on both sides of my eyelids and scraping and gouging my eyes into oblivion. I try to scream again because the pain is so powerful and attacking every nerve ending and so unreal, but I can’t because the needles are in my throat. They’re everywhere.

I open my eyes one last time, only to find that it’s all gone. The world is still dark around me, but it’s not as cold. The air isn’t shifting around me. I’m in my room. I hold up my quivering hands against the orange glow of the heater and see that the skin is smooth.

It was just a nightmare.

Quietly and to myself, I whisper, “What did I do to deserve this?”

The Haze doesn’t reward me with an answer. Only a faint remnant of its concentrated chill crosses my face before dissolving into nothing and leaving me afraid once again.